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Southeast Asian Leaders Earn Highest Job Approval in Asia

Southeast Asian Leaders Earn Highest Job Approval in Asia

by Melanie Standish

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Majorities in more than half of the 21 Asian countries and regions Gallup surveyed in 2011 approved of their chief executives, with leaders in Southeast and South Asia earning some of the highest marks in the region. Laotians, Cambodians, and Sri Lankans were the most likely to express support for their leaders, with more than nine in 10 saying they approve of their job performance. The 20% approval rating that Pakistanis gave their president was the lowest in the region.


Economic stability and peace dividends may help explain some of the relatively high approval that leaders of Laos, Cambodia, and Sri Lanka get from their constituents. Laos' 7% or better economic growth since 2008, for example, likely contributes to residents' approval of President Choummali Saignason. Saignason, who is not elected by popular vote, was re-elected by the country's National Assembly shortly before Gallup's surveys started. Mahinda Rajapaksa in Sri Lanka may still be benefiting from residents' residual euphoria following the 2009 end of the country's 26-year civil war.

In contrast, political discord, internal strife, and geo-political complexities likely affected approval ratings for leaders in Hong Kong, Nepal, and Pakistan. Pakistanis have never placed much confidence in President Asif Ali Zardari's leadership; throughout his tenure, the country has grappled with terrorism, challenging relations with the U.S., and a struggling economy. Donald Tsang of Hong Kong leaves office in July amid concerns about China's increasingly active role in the former British protectorate and controversies over gifts, travel, and lodging received from business leaders.

Net Losses in Approval Larger Than Gains

More leaders in Asia lost support than gained it between 2011 and 2010. Thailand's former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva saw the steepest decline in approval of all Asian countries, likely reflecting the atmosphere that led to the loss of his Democrat Party in July 2011 parliamentary elections. Vietnam's Nguyen Tan Dung has also seen his approval sag following his defeat in party elections for the ruling Communist Party's Politburo.

largest difference in asian leadership job approval

Singapore's Lee Hsien Loong has maintained relatively high approval ratings compared with ratings that other leaders around the world received in 2011. However, gradually declining approval ratings for Lee's People's Action Party may be contributing to the decline in his own rating. Recent government corruption scandals and economic troubles have likely tarnished the image of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who has seen a slight dip in his approval.

The leaders of Malaysia, Cambodia, and Taiwan saw marginal improvement in their already positive approval ratings. Mongolia's Tsakhi Elbegdorj has also seen a slight improvement in his ratings since his disputed election to a third term as prime minister, and a plurality of Mongolians now approve of his leadership.


Compared with other global regions, there will be few elections in Asia and leadership will remain stable for the duration of 2012. In most of the Asian countries surveyed, more residents expressed approval for their leadership than disapproval.

Gallup's findings suggest that those leaders without a majority of their constituents' support need to address the economic, social, and political concerns of their populations. Given the lack of support by residents in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and South Korea, these leaders in particular will continue to struggle in governing their respective countries. South Korea's Lee Myung-bak will continue to grapple with engaging constituents concerned with corruption allegations and provocations involving North Korea. Pakistan and Afghanistan in particular will face continued challenges as they struggle with internal unrest, labored relations with neighboring countries, and engaging the international community with geo-political, strategic, and economic interests in the region.

For complete data sets or custom research from the more than 150 countries Gallup continually surveys, please contact or call 202.715.3030.

Survey Methods

Results are based on face-to-face and telephone interviews with approximately 1,000 adults, aged 15 and older, conducted between April 5 and Dec. 4, 2011, in the 21 countries identified in the article. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error ranges from ± 2 percentage points to ±4 percentage points. The margin of error reflects the influence of data weighting. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

For more complete methodology and specific survey dates, please review Gallup's Country Data Set details.

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